For most people, bed bug bites are the first indication of a bed bug problem.
Bedbugs normally bite you while you are sleeping. They get to your blood by piercing the skin and injecting a salivary fluid that causes your blood to flow easier (an anticoagulant) and also anesthetizes your skin, so you won’t feel the sting, immediately wake up, and crush the little pest.
It is that saliva (or rather, the proteins in the saliva) that causes an allergic reaction in most people.
The reaction causes redness, swelling, inflammation, and most of all, itchiness around the area of each bite. The redness looks different on different people, and they can even vary in appearance depending on the location of the bite on your body. It might look like a mosquito bite, or a large red welt, or something in-between.
Some people have reported that the bites have a white mark or depression in the center, though that is not always the case. Over time, the shape and the color of the bite/s will change.
Reactions to the bites may be delayed. In fact, in some cases, it can be a day or more before the welts appear. Once they appear, the welts shrink down to red spots, but those spots can last for days.
Bed bug bites are often in a little row, sometimes three or more, one right after another.
It is estimated that 20-30% of people do not have a reaction to bed bug bites.
For most people, though, bed bug bites itch. And it can be awful – they can itch so much that it becomes painful. There are bed bug sufferers whose reaction to the bites grew worse and worse over time as they became more sensitive to them.
That’s just another reason not to mess around with bed bugs. If you think you have them, you have to deal with the problem now, before your own body joins the fight against you.
Here is the one good thing about bed bug bites: they have not been implicated in the spread of disease.
For some, that is a comforting thought. No matter how bad the bites get, and even though they might drive you crazy, there is no evidence that you can get anything really nasty from a bed bug bite.
If you are one of the unlucky majority that is allergic to bed bug bites, here is how you deal with them:
- Don’t scratch. They itch so bad, but scratching will make it worse. The more the bites are scratched, the more they itch. Also, when you scratch, you run the risk of opening the welt and causing bleeding.
Some victims have reported that the blood from a scratched welt seems to flow more freely than normal, perhaps a result of residual traces of anticoagulant. And, scratching a bite until it bleeds can lead to infection. So resist the temptation.
- Wash the area with warm, soapy water.
Apply an anti-itch or anti-inflammatory medication, such as Benadryl or Hydrocortisone. It won’t make the bites go away, but it will reduce the symptoms.